Vox Tablet

Neither Anatevka Nor Auschwitz: One Man’s Revelatory Roots Trip to Poland

Jonathan Groubert discovers just how unreliable family histories can be when held up against archives and artifacts

April 29, 2014
(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons)

Ashkenazi Jews whose grandparents or great-grandparents hail from the Pale of Settlement tend to hold certain received notions about Poland (“bad for the Jews”) and its people (“hated the Jews”). On the basis of such notions, many Ashkenazim see little or no reason to visit the place. Jonathan Groubert felt similarly. Nevertheless, in 1994 he tacked Poland on to the itinerary of a backpacking trip through Europe. The visit was intended to do little more than confirm what he already knew. Instead it left him confused and determined to dig deeper into his family’s past and into Konin, the town they left behind. Here he shares his story. Groubert is a radio host and producer based in the Netherlands. A version of this story first aired on his podcast, “The State We’re In,” which is a co-production with WBEZ Chicago.

Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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